In his book that was released this week, former top Bush aide Karl Rove claimed that President Bush would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in 2003 if he had known Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. “Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it,” Rove writes. “The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”
The New York Times’ Peter Baker asked Rove about that comment and noted that Rove still justifies the invasion anyway. “Do you really think the Iraq war was worth it?” Baker asked. “The world is a better place,” Rove said. When Baker asked about other justifications the administration used for war (human rights and spreading democracy) Rove accused the Times reporter of talking about “hypotheticals” and that it was the Bush White House that was dealing with “reality“:
ROVE: You’re talking about hypotheticals. What we were talking about was the practical reality that in the aftermath of 9/11 we had somebody who was refusing to abide by international weapons inspections and live up to the agreement that he made after the first Gulf War. And whom every Western intelligence agency believed had weapons of mass destruction. That was a calculus in the aftermath of 9/11 that we could not tolerate. We had to deal with the world as we knew it, as we thought we knew it.
Except the “reality” was that Saddam Hussein didn’t have WMD. Moreover, in the months before the invasion, Saddam did, in fact, allow U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq, who, according to a report commissioned by President Bush himself after the war, had disproved intelligence on Iraq’s WMD before the war. Yet, the Bush White House dismissed their findings:
By the time President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons he was allegedly trying to build, every piece of fresh evidence had been tested — and disproved — by U.N. inspectors, according to a report commissioned by the president and released Thursday.
The work of the inspectors — who had extraordinary access during their three months in Iraq between November 2002 and March 2003 — was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and the intelligence community in the run-up to the war, according to the commission led by former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) and retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman.
On NBC yesterday, Rove argued that there was a “worldwide consensus” before the invasion that Iraq had WMD. Apparently, expert weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq did not fall into that category.
Thus it’s unclear what “practical reality” Rove is referring to, seeing the “reality” was that Iraq didn’t have WMD — thus dislodging the main case for war and thereby making the entire effort impractical.